Slave in Thailand Factory, 2005. Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department.

March 5, 2013, by Emma Thorne

Modern day slavery: leading expert to speak at Nottingham

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in the US. Despite this, slavery has not been consigned to the history books and still endures in many parts of our modern world. Professor Zoe Trodd, Professor of American Literature in the Department of American and Canadian Studies, looks ahead to an event that will bring the modern slave trade into the spotlight.

On Wednesday 13th March, Nottingham will host the world’s leading expert on contemporary slavery. Professor Kevin Bales will deliver a public lecture in Highfield House at 6.30pm, co-sponsored by American and Canadian Studies, the Institute for the Study of Slavery and the Centre for Advanced Studies, and chaired by myself.

Kevin Bales’ work on modern slavery was named one of “100 World-Changing Discoveries” by the Association of British Universities and he has advised the US, British, Irish, Norwegian, and Nepali governments, as well as the United Nations, on slavery and human trafficking policy. Further highlighting the university’s research strengths in this area, three Nottingham researchers, including Professor Julia O’Connell Davidson, will take part in a panel session at 5.30pm that day.

These events take place just months after a man was accused of enslavement right here in Nottingham and in a year that marks the 150th anniversary of the US Emancipation Proclamation, which universities, schools, politicians and communities have commemorated. But the lecture and panel remind us that in 2013, 150 years after Emancipation and more than 200 years after the end of the British and American transatlantic slave trades, there are more slaves alive than ever before in human history. Around the world, there are 27 million slaves, meaning that today’s slave population is greater than the population of Australia and almost seven times greater than the population of Ireland. These are individuals forced to work for no pay, unable to walk away, held against their will through violence or its threat, sometimes trafficked across borders for exploitation, including into the US and the UK.

The events on 13th March will challenge simple commemorative celebrations of the Emancipation anniversary, underscore that slavery isn’t yet history, and advance debate on the scope, definitions and causes of contemporary slavery, as well as possible ways to end it.

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